Science magazine has made an important move after receiving complaints about a pro-trophy hunting letter it published. The magazine has revised its policies, including applying them retrospectively, and published a series of further letters which provide counter-arguments on the controversial subject.
Conflicts of interest
In August, Science published an open letter from conservationists that argued against bans on trophy hunting imports, saying the practice has a positive impact on conservation. But as The Canary pointed out at the time, the letter didn’t acknowledge that two of its 133 signatories work for or advise Conservation Force. This is a trophy hunting advocacy group which has charitable status and claims to contribute “over one million dollars each year for on the ground conservation in range countries”.
Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) founder Eduardo Gonçalves and explorer Ranulph Fiennes approached Science after the letter’s publication. They expressed concern to the magazine, saying it had “failed to disclose the conflicts of interest” of the authors of the letter. The letter has 133 signatories – people who signed the letter in support – and five named authors, who are also signatories, responsible for its content. One author, Paul Johnson, has stated he has “no competing interests”.
Gonçalves and Fiennes included a “dossier” of what they saw as potential conflicts in their complaint.
Until now, Science didn’t require authors of letters to disclose conflicts of interest. It only did so for the authors of manuscripts. That is changing. In an Editor’s Note released on 25 October, it said:
This policy is now under revision to ensure that authors of Letters also make readers aware of financial and advisory competing interests.
It continued, explaining it had asked the authors of the letter to “declare their competing interests”. Science also published a further six letters on the topic of trophy hunting on 25 October. And the authors of those letters had to declare potential conflicts of interest too. These further letters on trophy hunting all challenge assertions made in the letter published in August to varying degrees.
Science also provided the authors of the initial letter the opportunity to respond to those released on 25 October.
The authors’ “competing interests” were added in an addendum to their letter. Lead author Amy Dickman, who is a research fellow at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCru), declared that she:
is the Director of the Ruaha Carnivore Project, which has received funding from phototourism (Asilia, Nomad) and hunting nongovernmental organizations (the Dallas Safari Club, and Safari Club International)
Dallas Safari Club (DSC) says it has “been very successful in defeating legislation that would have severely curtailed hunting rights and negatively impacted vast tracts of hunting habitat” as part of its “mission” to ‘protect hunters’ rights’. It also says providing funds for “mission-driven [conservation] programs annually” is a part of its core remit. Furthermore, it lists “education” as part of its mission, such as outreach programmes that “introduce shooting and hunting to youth, women and others”.
Safari Club International (SCI) says its primary missions “are to protect the freedom to hunt and to promote wildlife conservation”.
In the addendum, Dickman said that the funding for the Ruaha Carnivore Project from the DSC and SCI occurred more than five years ago and represented less than 1% of the overall funding for the project.
She told The Canary in a statement:
we have always been fully transparent regarding our funding and affiliations, and acted in the same way with Science. We responded and gave them all the information they wanted as soon as they had this new policy in place.
In a previous communication, she also said:
we [WildCru] are very clear that we do not receive funding with any strings attached, and our conclusions and outputs will always be based on evidence rather than our individual opinions or those of our funders.
Rosie Cooney and Dilys Roe, meanwhile, explained that they are “past and current Chair of IUCN [the International Union for the Conservation of Nature] Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi)”. They explained that it doesn’t have “core funding” from hunting interests but it does receive “<5% project funding from hunting-related sources”. Furthermore, they said that:
SULi co-convened a meeting in 2018 that received funding from a wide range of hunting and nonhunting-related organizations, including Safari Club International Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation, the Russian Mountain Hunters’ Club, and a member of The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation delegation.
The disclosure also detailed that author Maxi Pia Louis “is affiliated with the Namibian Association of CBNRM (Community-based natural resource management) Support Organizations” (NACSO). As the CBTH detailed in its dossier, NACSO has published the vast list of trophy hunting companies it had as “hunting partners” in 2014/15.
The final author, Johnson, said he has “no competing interests”. He’s a research fellow at WildCru like Dickman.
As Science‘s decision highlights, it’s important that people understand the potentially competing interests of authors of published science-based work on trophy hunting and other issues.
The changes Science has made will ensure that readers do know that across the board with its publications. It should be congratulated for making that move.
Featured image via YouTube – National Geographic
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?